Thursday, July 2, 2015

Among the Ten Thousand Things

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
Random House: 7/7/15
eBook review copy, 336 pages

My Thoughts:

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont is a highly recommended debut novel about a family in crisis.

Jack Shanley is a well-known artist. He and his wife Deb, a former ballet dancer, and their two children, Simon, 15, and Kay, 11, live in NYC. When Kay  looks inside a package addressed to Deb that she is mistakenly given, she finds hundreds of printed emails and a letter from her father Jack's mistress. Kay understands some of it, but not quite all of it, so she shares the information with her brother, Simon, who does understand the contents.

When the contents of the box is brought to Deb's attention by her children, she realizes that she can no longer pretend that she doesn't know about Jack's (repeated) infidelity. While Jack's actions have hurt her, the fact that their children know hurts even more and Deb knows that she must take action. This wasn't Jack's first affair and won't be his last. Deb decides it would be best for her and the kids to leave NYC for a few weeks.

Among the Ten Thousand Things brought to my mind the quote: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." Henry David Thoreau (Walden). Everyone can be said to live a life of desperation of some kind or at some point. What Pierpont does is take this family at such a time, during the dissolution of a marriage, and show how each member of the family is affected. 

Pierpont takes a radical approach in the organization of her novel that challenges the usual story-telling sequence. The first part of the novel is set in NYC at the end of May and presents the discovery of the affair and the domestic drama that follows. Then Pierpont tells us in "Part Two, That Year and Those That Followed", what happens in the future to the characters. Part Three resumes the in depth story at the start of June and continues character development right where part one left off. The fourth part is again a concluding "That Year and Those That Followed" that ties up all the loose ends with additional information.

I thought the writing was excellent. The unconventional presentation of the story didn't bother me, but I can see where other readers may have qualms about knowing the end of the story, so to speak, before knowing the characters better. Personally, knowing the outcome so soon was a surprise, but intriguing enough to encourage me to continue reading to see the details and immerse myself in the emotional lives of the family.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Penguin First to Read and Random House for review purposes.


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